Sunday, March 31, 2019

Classic Baseball on the Radio

1966 Topps Calvin Koonce, #278

Recently a trader-friend told me he was thinking of adding a few extra cards to the package he was preparing for me. These extra cards, he warned, were old, and were beat up. Some of them were really beat up. After issuing this disclaimer, he mentioned that if I wasn't interested in the cards, he just wouldn't send them.

But I wrote back quickly and urged him to include them. The reason? I like well-worn vintage cards. They remind me of the time when baseball cards were just baseball cardsand kids actually played with them. Condition didn't matter. Value didn't matter. There were no serial-numbered cards, no relics, no inserts. You just plunked down your nickel, got your pack of cards, popped the stick of gum in your mouth, looked over the players on the front and the info on the back, and enjoyed the experience. 

1963 Topps Charley James, #83

Maybe a card you found in that pack featured a local player like Charley James here, who was born and raised about 10 miles from Busch Stadium. And maybe that made you think about the next game your parents (or uncle or aunt or grandparents) were going to take you to. Or maybe you thought about that game you recently heard on the radio:

Hey, look! A card of Jim Kaat. That guy pitched a complete game and got two hits of his own against Cleveland last week!*

All of that is before my time. But it's exactly what I think about when I listen to one of the many broadcasts posted on a YouTube channel named Classic Baseball on the Radio.

Once you're there, open a playlist and click on any of the individual games. You'll hear the entire broadcastsometimes even the original commercials that were aired between innings.

Playlists are organized by decade, team, announcer (wow!), regular season, and postseason. You're bound to find something you like.

1968 Topps Fred Talbot, #577
These radio broadcasts, the ones of a certain vintage, just capture the magic of baseball. You won't hear long-winded descriptions of spin rates or advanced metrics. Neither will you hear joy-sapping discussions on free agency and multimillion-dollar contracts. Instead, the announcers describe the game to youand not only the action, but what's happening between the action. Body language. Tension. The wind coming in from right-center field. The batter stepping into the box cautiously because Bob Gibson is on the mound. The third baseman creeping in on the grass, expecting a bunt. Things that painted the picture for you.

1967 Topps Andy Etchebarren, #457

They're often lost on modern television broadcasts, but it's good to be reminded that the magic still exists on the radio, past and even present.

Besides, the new baseball season has arrived. The smell of fresh-cut grass is in the air. Go out and have a catch.

And the next time you're sorting through cards, turn the internet dial to Classic Baseball on the Radio, put on some of the best background noise you'll ever want to hear, and for a little while forget about those silly things like scarcity and monetary value that we connect to trading cards these days.

*Jim Kaat really did pitch a complete game while collecting two hits against Cleveland. It happened on June 27, 1966. Here's the boxscore.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

From the Favorites Box: Eddie Murray, 1978 Topps #36

A series where I post some thoughts about favorite cards. Previous cards in the series are available here.

Here's a brief story to help explain why today's card has a place in my box of favorites:

A couple of years ago I began an eBay search for an Eddie Murray rookie card that was in good condition and listed at a reasonable price. Not long after, I found one that fit the bill, and clicked Buy it Now.

The card arrived in timely fashion, and man, is it cool-looking. There's young Eddie Murray following through on a warm-up swing, maybe in the on-deck circle. Classic Orioles logo, classic cap-under-the-helmet, classic wristband, classic mutton chops and mustache, classic Topps All-Star Rookie trophy. It was great to have the card in my collection.

But like many of us do, shortly after we have the card in hand we tuck it away, either in a binder or in a storage box of some sort. Then it sits there and we largely move to the next search.

This time was differentthough not by my own doing. 

About a week or two after I received the Eddie Murray card, I received another envelope in the mail. Now, I'm not a big buyer of cards, and that day I knew I wasn't expecting a bubble mailer. So imagine my surprise when I opened the envelope and Eddie Murray was staring at me . . . again!


I looked at the printed receipt and the seller's name. Sure enough, it was the same guy.

That night I sent him a quick message, informing him of the mix-up and offering to send the duplicate card back to him. An ungraded Eddie Murray rookie card (well-centered and in good condition) isn't exorbitantly priced, but it isn't cheap either. 

Want to guess what happened next, fellow collectors?

Yes. That's right. In yet another example of the generosity and kindness within the collecting community, the seller told me not to worryjust keep the duplicate card.


The combination of a great-looking rookie card (or two of them) and a great story is why 1978 Topps #36 has a place in my box of favorite cards.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Duplicates from the South

Recently a trader-friend from the Carolinas informed me that he'd be moving to another location down there, and although he certainly planned to bring his card collection with him, he most certainly did not want to bring a lot of his duplicates along. And as a result of some generosity and kindness I must have exhibited during a prior trade or two, he wanted to give me first go at his dupes. (It pays to be kind!)

He had stacks of hockey cards from the 1970s up to modern times. So, just as I was setting goals to trade a bunch of cards I didn't need, thereby paring down my collection . . . enter the temptation.

Well, stuff from the 1990s up to the present time I can easily resist. But stuff from the '70s and '80s? Can't pass it up.

Turns out I had a couple hundred cards on his wantlists, so the transaction ended up being part-trade. But a lot more cards came my way than went out to him. Here's the bulk of what I received (all Topps):

Many commons, but definitely not all, as you can see by the 1980-81 Guy Lafleur up there and the 1971-72 Vic Hadfield at the bottom. Here are some of my favorites from the different sets:

I'm not as big a fan of the 1971-72 design as many collectors seem to be. But I do enjoy that Seals card. And there's Paul Henderson, shortly before he'd score an important goal for Canada against the Soviets in the Summit Series. The Hadfield pose is cool, as he was known for his slapshot.

Lots of cool stuff in this batch of 1974-75s. An Atlanta Flames jersey and an old-school goalie mask on the same card? Winner. A creased Stan Mikita is still a Stan Mikita. Bill Flett is a smiling sasquatch who's been plucked from the wilderness by the Maple Leafs and airbrushed by Topps. Perreault and Martin represent two parts of the French Connection line in Buffalo. Butch Goring looks front and then to his left. Emile Francis sports the classic team jacket, while Boom-Boom is in a snazzy blazer.

Another Seals card here, plus Bobby Clarke x3 on the Team Leaders card. And there's the Bobby Clarke base card. (I wonder what the hole punches were for?) Seems like someone at some point was a Flyers fan, though.

Cool stuff from the 1976-77 batch here. That Wilf Paiment card yields a good view of the Kansas City Scouts logo. Another Seals card, this time the team card. I like how Topps listed "Adams Division" and "Patrick Division" on the fronts of the team cards here. Phil Myre with the classic goalie pose. And Bill Clement looks slightly miffed. Maybe he knows that in a few years Tom Selleck will beat him out for the role of Magnum, P.I.

Another Scouts card (check out the headband on Henry Boucha!). That card of the Islanders Top Scoring Line refers to them by their nickname at the timeThe Long Island Lighting Companywhich was the actual name of the electric company on Long Island (LILCO for short). Al MacAdam shows you that the team colors of the Seals have changed. And at first glance, those all-star sunbursts make me think that Barber, Perreault, and Lapointe are on sale.

1978-79s here. I wonder how that beard felt under John Davidson's goalie mask. It's great that he's got the mask tucked into the top of one of his leg pads there. Soon-to-be Islander Butch Goring and current Islander Clark Gillies are teaming up on him. Why don't they have penalty minute leader cards nowadays?

Just a few 1979-80s came with the trade. Wayne Stephenson with an all-time great goalie mask. Gilles Meloche is chatting it up with a Capitals player in warmups. Dave Williams is recapturing his high school yearbook photo with that blurry background.

Some great cards in the 1980-81 batchand none of the pucks have been scratched off! Every card here shows a star player. Lafleur, Trottier, Salming, Tony Esposito, Mark Howe, Phil Esposito, Denis Potvin, Gare-Simmer-Stoughton, and John Davidson. (You should go 5-hole on John Davidson there.)

Some nice cards from the 1981-82 set, which features one of my all-time favorite hockey card designs. In this batch of nine cards we've got McDonald's pushbroom, Morrow's beard, Gartner's tidy mustache, Maruk's fu manchu, and a nice-looking Super Action card featuring a clean-shaven Mike Bossy.

There are only 165 cards in the 1984-85 Topps set. Got a big stack of them in this trade, including a whole bunch of star players. We have Coach Q before he was Coach Q. And there's Wayne looking up at the scoreboard to calculate how many goals he can score in the time remaining. I like that shot of Ken Morrow hopping through the open bench door onto the ice.

The 1986-87s include an even better view of Lanny's pushbroom at the top left. Manhattan native Joe Mullen is keeping his distance at the top right. In the middle row, two classic logos next to each other in Minnesota and Hartford. And there's Bernie Nicholls at the bottom left, sporting the gold and purple home uniform of the Kings. Always nice to receive an unmarked checklist, too.

If you're working on some hockey sets from the 1970s or 1980s, let me know. Most of the cards I received in this lot are available for trade, aside from the 1980-81s and 1986-87s.

Thanks for reading. And a big thanks to my trader-friend (whose name will remain anonymous). I hope your move goes as smoothly as possible!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Completed Set: 1990-91 Score Hockey

1990-91 proved to be a watershed season for hockey cards. Suddenly Topps and O-Pee-Chee weren’t the only boxes on store shelves. Now you also had Upper Deck, Score, Pro Set, Bowman, and O-Pee-Chee Premier to choose from.

Score’s first attempt was a good one. Their photography wasn’t quite on the level of Upper Deck’s, but overall it was still more interesting than the usual from Topps, who always seemed to include a lot of the “standing around during warmups” images on their hockey cards. (As a kid who had a certain amount of loyalty to Topps/OPC back then, even I had to acknowledge that fact, and opened quite a few packs of Score Hockey that year.)

As for the card borders, Score went with a rather safe yet appealing design, featuring a blue line/red line/blue line motif along the side borders and a player silhouette on the bottom right that’s reminiscent of the 1973 Topps baseball set.

When I rediscovered my childhood collection a few years ago, this was one of the sets that was almost complete. And I’m happy to say that I’ve now picked up the few cards I needed to complete it. The set still isn’t in a binder, because I usually reserve binders for pre-1990s sets. However, after looking through the cards again, maybe I’ll put them in pages one day after all.

Here are some of my favorites:

Wayne Gretzky, #1
There’s Wayne-O, doing his classic “cross the blueline, glide to a stop on right skate while winding up,
then shoot” maneuver. The action shots in this set are impressive, and often capture the moment quite well. 

Rod Langway, #20

It’s nice that you can see one of Rod Langway’s opponents giving chase in the background.
I feel like that doesn’t happen too often on hockey cards. 

Rob Ramage, #36

Even more impressive than the vertical action shots are some of the horizontal ones.
Score framed this card of Rob Ramage blasting one from the point rather nicely. 

Don Sweeney, #51
Another great horizontal shot that’s framed very well, and captures a “hockey moment”. Looks like Don Sweeney may have just dropped back to collect the puck, and now he's circling around to transition up the ice. If you’re a Bruins fan, you might give Score a bonus point for a clear shot of the Bruins crest on Sweeney's jersey and the New England Sports Network advertisement on the boards in the background. 

Daren Puppa, #60

Yet another horizontal card, this one from a vantage point not usually seen.
It almost feels like you’re on the ice and part of the play. (Top right! Shoot!)

Glen Wesley, #97
 Glen Wesley putting some mustard on a pass. 

Shayne Corson, #213

It’s always great to see a goal celebration on a hockey card.
(Although the dude in the Flyers jersey behind the glass is not impressed.) 

Brett Hull, #300
 This might be my favorite card in the set. 

Here’s an example of a card back. Two whole paragraphs filled with information,
which was standard for Score back then, no matter the sport.

Bill Ranford, #345

A statuesque Bill Ranford making the glove save. 

Jaromir Jagr, #428

Had to add the baby-faced Jaromir Jagr. 

Eric Lindros, #440
Score signed Eric Lindros to an exclusive contract that season, which allowed them to place the future superstar on an NHL hockey card. It was a pretty big coup at the time, as “Lindros Mania” was everywhere.

Along with the photography hits, though, Score had some misses. Mostly they involved cropping decisions. Sometimes, in order to get that follow-through, or to show the player controlling the puck, Score decided to partially crop the player out of the frame. What you get is a card that shows the entire hockey stick and a lot of empty rink space. It works alright for the horizontal cards, but not as much for the verticals.

Kelly Kisio, #37

Tom Laidlaw, #69

Dave Chyzowski, #372

However, if you look through the entire set, you’ll see that a majority of the time 1990-91 Score gets it right. A very solid overall effort for their inaugural hockey set. Probably a bit underrated, too.

What are your thoughts on Score’s first try at hockey?

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game (Episode 2)

Welcome back to The 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Dating Game, where we'll randomly select three eligible bachelors from the set and you, the reader, will choose which one wins that date with a special lady. How do we know they're bachelors? Why, it says so right on the back of their hockey cards, that's how!

Normand Leveille from the Boston Bruins was our big winner from episode 1. Now let's start the 2nd round and introduce our bachelors! [APPLAUSE]

Bachelor number 1: Defenseman from the New York Rangers, Tom Laidlaw
Bachelor number 2: Center from the Hartford Whalers, Ron Francis
Bachelor number 3: Center from the Boston Bruins, Steve Kasper

Remarkably, for the second week in a row the randomizer has chosen a Whaler and a Bruin. We've got a New England rivalry, folks!

Now let's find out more about these gents from the back of their hockey cards.

Looks like two of our bachelors this week were a little bit camera-shy, and didn't share any hobbies. Will that effect the outcome? It's up to you!

Bachelor number 1: Former Wildcat Tom Laidlaw, who's living it up in the Big Apple now?

Bachelor number 2: Former Greyhound Ron Francis, who put up a terrific 149 points for the club in 1979-80?

Bachelor number 3: Third-year man Steve Kasper, who enjoys running in his leisure time?